By Matt Mackinder -
Kids in Michigan dream of one day playing for the Red Wings just like Canadian kids have dreams to play NHL hockey in Canada.
Ryan Hartman grew up in the Chicago area idolizing hulking Blackhawks’ forward Eric Daze, hoping one day he’d be able to don the jersey of his hometown team for more than just fun.
Last Sunday at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Hartman realized a dream few see come to fruition as the Blackhawks grabbed the 18-year-old Plymouth Whalers’ gritty forward with the 30th and final pick of the first round at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
“My palms were sweating a little bit and my mom was a little anxious to hear my name called, but I think it worked out good for me,” said Hartman to a throng of media at the draft. “I saw (Chicago’s) name on the lower end of the (draft) board and I kind of pictured my name being there and was kind of hoping they’d pick me.”
As a youngster, Hartman said he went to Blackhawks’ games with his father and grandfather and now, to be on the verge in possibly a year or two to be able to grace the same ice as his heroes seems pretty surreal.
“It couldn’t have been any better how this wrote itself,” Hartman said.
This past season, his first in Plymouth after giving up a four-year scholarship to Miami University, Hartman scored 23 goals and 60 points in 56 games along with tallying 120 penalty minutes. He also won gold with the United States World Junior team over the Christmas holidays in Ufa, Russia, and skated in both the USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game last September in Buffalo, N.Y., and CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in January out in Halifax, N.S.
With the Whalers, Hartman said his time there was nothing short of “a great experience.”
“It was a new adjustment, a new league and everything and I didn’t really have any expectations going into it, but (Plymouth coach-GM) Mike (Vellucci) did a great job,” said Hartman. “He moved me to the center position and I think that really developed my game playing multiple positions. He deserves a lot of credit.”
Hartman follows recent Plymouth forwards Tyler Seguin (Boston, 2010), Stefan Noesen (Ottawa, 2011), Rickard Rakell (Anaheim, 2011) and Tom Wilson (Washington, 2012) as Whalers who have been tabbed in the first round of the NHL draft.
Along with taking in the 2012 draft in Pittsburgh, during this past season, Hartman said he tapped the brains of Wilson and fellow NHL prospect Mitchell Heard (Colorado’s second-round pick in 2012) to see what he could expect during the draft process.
“(Wilson and Heard) just told me to relax and be yourself,” Hartman said. “They said you’ve done what you have and you’ve proven yourself already and it’s in God’s hands now pretty much.”
Having done all that and now property of Chicago, it’s safe to assume last Sunday was a dream come true.
“Yeah,” quipped Hartman. “Exactly.”